I didn't originally plan to post this here on ASA, but ASAers did contribute a lot to my path.
Why Maker's and Builders?
Back in the mid 90s atleast partly with help from the Usenet group news:rec.crafts.metalworking I made my first "punch" and "die." I needed to install some photo beams at a port of entry for a pedestrian counter. I designed the "system" using a variety of parts and components, but I was concerned about the photo beams themselves. They had something like a 5 year warranty, but the lenses were polycarbonate. Each set of beams had to be placed in a walkway between counters. My concern was that people brushing by would quickly wear the lens as clothing, bags, and misc items brushed against the sides of the walkway. I didn't want to be that guy who everybody there got to know because I was always there fixing it. I had the idea to recess the emitter and sensor so that only the most aggressive brushing up against might contact the surfaces. I looked all over, but nobody made a recessed electrical plate that I thought would work. I took a piece of hot rolled (didn't even know what it was called at the time) and cut one pieces with a rectangular hole in it to mate with the back of an aluminum electrical blank plate. I chamfered the edges by hand with a grinder so it was a decent fit. Then I cut a small piece to mate with it about plate thickness smaller all the way around and hand chamfered it as well. Then I just mashed a cover plate between them with my hydraulic press. (had it for automotive work, not machine work) It looked amazingly good. I doubt the guys at GSA ever noticed that was a custom piece. As a new (mostly black box) system it had its development issues, but lens wear of the emitter and sensor was not one of them. It was in use for years until they went to a new system with some big contractor at all the ports.
That was definitely metal working. I doubt it was really machining though except in the crudest sense. I take that sort of approach to a lot of what I do. I don't have a stick up my butt about being a "machinist" "welder" "fabricator" "mechanic". In fact my knowledge is lacking really in all of those areas even though now I make my living as a niche market mold maker. I can weld. If its important to look pretty I do some practice welds and then do the real weld after I've taken a break and I am fresh. If it just has to stick I burn it together and clean it up with a grinder. I know less about welding than almost anybody else in any metalworking group, but oddly enough I have five electric welders and an OA rig and I have welded parts still in use today with all but one of them. (Just got a new AC/DC pulse TIG a couple days ago.) Fabricator is a tough term to define, but I've built and converted trailers a welding table wood storage rack and various other things to fit needs.A lot of welding there, but various other fabrication skills as well. Still I don't consider myself a fabricator. I do have people bring me things to make or fix, but I turn down a lot of it unless they are friends and they stay to help. I neighborhood kid is as likely as not to ask me for help with a motorcycle that needs some work. What about a machinist... No. Just ask any old manual machinist. I'm just a hack, button pushing, shade tree, wannabe by the very fact that I never serviced apprenticeship for 3 lifetimes in a steam powered line shop. LOL. As a contractor I made more than a few custom parts for communications contracting for applications over the years. Camera mounts, sensor brackets, switching systems, etc. One local fab shop did more than a couple tubing bending project for me.
Since I'm no longer a contractor (retired and sold out) what does that make me? There is a lot I don't know, but very few projects am I afraid to try to come up with a solution. Atleast for myself. I won't always take on projects for others. If I don't know I learn how. If I can't figure it out myself I ask questions. If I don't have the recommended tools I think about it and see if I can find alternatives. If I still have to have the tools I put them on the list and when I have money I buy them. The term "Maker" always bothered me. It didn't sound quite right, but ultimately I think that's what I am. A maker. I find ways to make what I need and I don't worry to much about being true to any particular trade. If it works it works.
I'm a member of various groups. Some very specialized around a particular piece of equipment like the Yahoo mailing list for the mini lathe and others more broad like Home Shop Machinist, so when I started my own group (on Facebook) what did I call it? Makers & Builders.Visit or don't. I'm good either way.